Saturday, February 01, 2014

Attention Marketers: Consider How Age Affects What Makes People Happy

As companies look to market their goods and services, they should pay careful attention to how age affects happiness.  That's what a new study by Cassie Mogilner and Amit Bhattacharjee suggests.  These scholars examined how particular types of experiences affects our happiness.  Here's an excerpt from Knowledge @ Wharton that summarizes their findings:

After conducting eight different studies looking at a variety of influences and experiences, Mogilner and Bhattacharjee conclude that “younger people who view their future as extensive gain more happiness from extraordinary experiences.” As people get older, and more aware that their time on earth is finite, ordinary experiences become increasingly associated with happiness, and even begin to catch up to the extraordinary in the amount of joy and contentment they produce.

What's the break point in terms of age?  It appears to be the mid-30s (ouch, I'm in the older group!).  What do they define as ordinary vs. extraordinary?  Ordinary may be a wonderful meal shared between mother and daughter.  Extraordinary might be a trip to Paris or a weekend hiking in the Rocky Mountains.   

How can marketers capitalize on this research?  The scholars argue that firms can even tailor their advertising to account for these findings.  Featuring the extraordinary might be useful in an advertisement for a product aimed at teenagers.  Featuring a happy ordinary event might be best-suited for an advertisement targeted at Baby Boomers. 


russconte said...

Interesting study. I would be very interested in evidence to the contrary - since that includes me. I'm in the older age group. Tomorrow is Super Bowl Sunday, and I won't be watching the game - I'll be snowboarding hitting the slopes, and trying park and pipe for the first time.

A few other things I've started after joining their "older" group include taking lessons to go soaring (the planes without an engine), hiked to over 11,000 feet, white water rafting, starting my own small business, learning a foreign language, became the President of a computer club, recorded an album, and much more.

I know I'm not unique, and that there are many people in the "older" group that enjoy adventure and expanding horizons, and I personally know many people under 30 who are incredibly adventure averse and don't see their horizons ever expanding.

My perception is the authors generalized their own experiences, and had a huge case of confirmation bias. They found what they expected to find, and people in the economy who don't fit their hypotheses (like me) didn't show up in the research very much.

It seems to me that this is a first step, and much more research is needed before we have the science to generalize from the finding we have at this time.

Michael Roberto said...

The problem with any of these studies is that they focus on the average, and they don't talk much about those who defy the general pattern in the data... even if that is a significant number of people. Is there a difference between those under 35 and over 35? Overall? Sure, it could be. Is there a substantial number of folks who don't fit their overall pattern? Probably, and of course, we would like to know more about them.